Several arrested for massive drug shipping operation in Smith County

Several arrested for massive drug shipping operation in Smith County
Source: KLTV

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Several people have been arrested and face charges in Smith County for a massive shipping operation involving the distribution of marijuana from California to Tyler, Texas.

Monday KLTV obtained arrest warrants for several suspects in the case.

The warrants revealed that from October of 2015 through February of 2017, investigators believe 11 people engaged in organized criminal activity in Smith County in an effort to distribute large amounts of marijuana.

The arrest warrants tell a story of drugs being shipped between cousins from California to a location in Tyler. Dealers in Tyler would pick up the marijuana to distribute in the area.

A Tyler Police Department detective received a tip in February of 2016 that large amounts of marijuana were being shipped from California to Cesar Alexander Lopez, 30, of Tyler, in the 6100 block of Rhones Quarter Road in Tyler.

Detectives began a conducting physical and covert video surveillance of the residence.

A U.S. Postal Service inspector provided a historical record of the packages that had been mailed to the address. From Oct. 6, 2015 through March 24, 2016, 26 parcels weighing a total of 64.65 pounds, believed to contain marijuana, had been shipped to Lopez address from California.

In April of 2016, two parcels containing 4 pounds of high-grade marijuana were mailed from Santa Ana, California to Lopez  Officials observed Cristian Adrian Cervantes, 20, of Tyler and Manuel Isiais Zuniga, 20, of Tyler, pick up the parcels from the front door. A felony stop was conducted, acco

A search warrant was issued for Lopez address. Detectives seized nearly $9,000 in cash, 1.25 pounds of marijuana, 28 grams of tetrahydrocannabinol and 80 Xanax tablets.

During interviews, Zuniga and Cervantes both admitted to distributing marijuana for Lopez and his cousin Jesus Medina Jr. who lives in California, the documents show.

Detectives were also able to obtain a search warrant for  Zuniga's and Cervantes' residences which resulted in a seizure of more than $7,000 in cash, 6.48 pounds of marijuana and 1,949 Xanax tablets.

Zuniga is in the Smith County Jail. He is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. His bond has been set at $750,000.

Cervantes is in the Smith County Jail. He is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. His bond has been set at $25,000.

A consensual search was conducted on both Zuniga and Cervantes' cell phones.

Text messages revealed that Medina Jr. was shipping marijuana to Zuniga and Cervantez' home in the 22 hundred block of Martin Lane, in Tyler and the 10 thousand block of County Road 2254 in Tyler.

Cervantes told investigators that Lopez and Medina would instruct him to make payments for the marijuana he was selling. Lopez would pay him for his distribution. Cervantes would combine his currency that he made from selling the marijuana with Lopez' currency and either send some of it through Western Union or Money Gram to Medina in California, the warrant shows.

The chain of distribution did not end with Lopez, Medina, Cervantes, and Zuniga.

Investigators discovered images in Cervantez' phone showing several deposit receipts for different bank accounts from others in California and Tyler. The phone contained complete banking information that had been texted to Cervantes from Medina.

Grand jury subpoenas were issued for all the bank accounts discovered in Cervantes' phone.  A return of those records indicated that the account holders were the following:

Benjamin Castellanos, 29, of Perris, California obtained an account that received multiple cash deposits. Over the course of five months, more than $35,000 was deposited into the account in Tyler and subsequently withdrawn in California. There were also multiple, large cash deposits over the course of nine months made into the account in other states which totaled an additional $61,660.34.

Castellanos is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. He is currently in the Smith County Jail on a $750,000 bond.

Jason Lawrence Riddle, 35, of Long Beach, California obtained an account that received multiple cash deposits. The account was opened in October of 2015. Over the course of one month, more than $20,000 was deposited into the account in Tyler.

Riddle is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. He is currently in the Smith County Jail on a $750,000 bond.

Hai Than Do, also known as HD Express, 40, of Santa Ana, California obtained an account that received multiple cash deposits.Deposits were made in multiple locations in Oklahoma as well as Tyler.

Do is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. He is currently in the Smith County Jail on a $3,500,000 bond.

Cynthia Karina Rodriguez, 27, of Riverside, California obtained an account that received multiple cash deposits. The account was opened in July of 2011. There were multiple, large cash deposits over the course of 6 months made into the account in other states as well as Tyler.  More than 65 cash deposits were made in other states other than California, as well as 6 cash deposits made in California totaling $186,859.

Rodriguez is currently in the Smith County Jail. She is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. Her bond has been set at $3,000,000.

Over the course of several months Jose Talavera, 29, of Tyler, was observed on camera at a bank in Tyler removing large amounts of cash from a backpack and handing it to a cashier. An investigation revealed that Talavera was a moving part of the marijuana operation.

Talavera has been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. He is currently in the Smith County Jail on a $750,000 bond.

All are waiting for indictment in Smith County.

More arrests are expected.

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